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Why Are The Police Called The Five-O?

by John Hensley
Why Are The Police Called The Five-O?

The term “Five-O” is a slang term used to refer to the police. It comes from the title of a popular TV series, Hawaii Five-O, which began in 1968 and was about a police force in Hawaii. Hawaii is the 50th state of the U.S., thus, the “Five-O” title.

Some of the other slang terms used to refer to the police in the U.S. are as follows.


The name Bobby for a policeman comes from Sir Robert Peel, who was responsible for the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. He wanted to give them a friendly image, so he chose to call them ‘Bobby’ after his childhood nickname. This has stuck ever since, and police officers are still known as Bobbies or Bobby’s even today.


The term “smokey” comes from the name of a bear that was once used to represent law enforcement. In 1810, Andrew Jackson started using his pet bear, Smokey, as a mascot for the Tennessee volunteer militia. He would take Smokey with him on recruiting tours and parades to encourage more men to join. 

Eventually, other states began using their bears for this purpose until it became an official part of law enforcement culture. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation making it mandatory for all federal agencies to have animal mascots representing them.


Peelers” also comes from Sir Robert Peel, who founded London’s Metropolitan Police in 1829. He introduced new ideas about law enforcement, including officers being known as ‘bobbies’ after his first name and patrolling with whistles later replaced by radios.


The term cop refers to police officers because it was originally short for copper. This comes from an earlier slang term, which referred to people who made their living catching thieves and other criminals. It came from a Latin phrase that meant “to catch” or “to seize.” By 1845, cops had become a common way to refer to law enforcement officials in print. 

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